Should you happen to find yourself shoulder to shoulder with me in the coming months, a bit of a warning: I’ve been on a mission to stop wearing deodorant, and it’s a bit touch and go.
I made the decision to give up deodorant last spring when I was going through my seasonal clothing switch and I noticed when I removed my beloved white Hermès shirt dress from a storage bin two murky yellowy stains peeking out from beneath each shoulder. Enough was enough.
My relationship with my armpits has always been a complicated one. Fresh (well, not really) out of puberty’s starting gate, I would sweat at the slightest provocation – when I was called on in class, when a boy asked me out, when I was in gymnastics practice. My friend Elizabeth Beautyman, an internist here in New York, once told me that body odor is really bacteria and it’s that bacteria that gives off the odor. “If you get rid of it on a regular basis—meaning, bathing—you probably won’t have the odor,” she said. But, I do get rid of it on a regular basis, twice a day sometimes, and, still, potent.
In turn, my medicine cabinet has become over the years a revolving door of odor tamers. I’ve tried the lady-specific, the men-specific, the crystal rocks, the boys (Tom and Jason); even homemade versions, like lemon juice and baking soda. Each one had its good days and disappointing days. And when the disappointing days included a favorite outfit ruined, both the outfit and the deodorant would be tossed.
There was a time, back in the early Aughts, when I thought I had found my winner: Dry Idea. This stoic, gender-free, roll-on was light going on and only mildly scented, but, most important, it worked. It was almost too good to be true.
And it was. This was around the time of the internet explosion, and thus, my favorite new pastime: trolling natural health websites. One of the popular headlines back then (and still a hot topic today) was “Is your antiperspirant giving you breast cancer?” Dozens upon dozens of posts linking aluminum (an ingredient commonly found in most antiperspirants and some standard deodorants) with breast cancer was too loud to ignore. Bye-bye, Dry (Idea).
Lucky me, with a job that involves covering new grooming products, there is always a new organic candidate turning up in the beauty closet. I’ll bring it home, squeeze it in among the others on trial in the medicine cabinet, then take it out for a spin.
My friend and fellow beauty writer Bee Shapiro, who created her organic skin care and fragrance line Ellis Brooklyn, suggested I try instead exfoliation. “I think it’s our own dead skin cells. If you exfoliate it regularly, you probably won’t get the stains,” she said with the confidence of someone who never gets pit stains. “I use a nylon towel from Muji to scrub under my pits once or twice a day.”
Thus began the exfoliation phase. Foregoing the nylon towel, I lined my bathtub with my favorite natural body scrubs. In the morning, I’d let Frank’s Peppermint Coffee Scrub or Nannie Inez’s Energizing Mint, Juniper and Rosemary scrub perk me up in the morning, then end the day with the calming scents of Hand in Hand’s Lavender Sugar Scrub or 100% Pure’s Eucalyptus scrub. I’d slather my legs, my belly, my arms, under those arms, then towel off smelling like an eye pillow or a Girl Scout Thin Mint. A few hours later? FAIL. What was my problem??
New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades blamed genes for the over-sweating – thanks, mom and dad – but by that point, I didn’t care the provenance of my dilemma. It was around then a colleague who swears by Soylent and all manner of supplements introduced me to chlorophyll pills. “I’ve taken it for 15 years and I’ve been body odor free. And I have no, literally zero, sweat stained white t-shirts,” Jun said. He appeared in my office doorway holding three jars of Body Mint chlorophyll tablets and said, “Start off taking two,” like a doctor handing over a prescription. “Twice a day. If you forget, you’ll notice. I certainly do.”
It’s been two months since chlorophyll came into my life. Of Body Mint’s three versions—Original, Lady Feminine and Sport—only Sport is my sure thing. Success rate? Not perfect; probably about 7 out of 10. And on those off days, it really doesn’t work. Moreover, my coworker wasn’t kidding when said it would bite me in the armpits if I forgot a dose.
But here’s why I’m sticking to it. Chlorophyll’s benefits stretch way beyond the underarms – it relieves redness and swelling; it helps heal wounds; helps build red blood cells; helps remove toxins efficiently; and is being seriously looked at for possible colon cancer prevention. And it gets better: back to the scent department, it also tempers foot odor and halitosis. I won’t go into exactly how I’ve conducted my tests, but I can confirm those last two!
One dusty bottle of Dry Idea remains in my bathroom. I’ve kept it there for red-letter days, but my new plan of action just might force it to retire: I pop two Body Mints, then head to the nearest juice bar and down two shots of wheatgrass.
Of course, this guarantees that my tongue will be green for a few hours. But, knowing I’m halitosis-free, I’ve taken to sticking it out all the time. Especially when I walk down the antiperspirant aisle.